One of the most enjoyable things in life for me is cooking for other people. I’m pretty lucky that my wife and I have the opportunity to share meals with friends — and especially family — at least a couple of times a week.
I really enjoy fixing food for my grandson, Rakeem, whose tastes somewhat parallel mine. Although he doesn’t eat as many different kinds of vegetables as I do, nonetheless he does get a sufficient amount in his diet. And he loves most fruits, as do I. We often share oranges at night after a meal while watching sporting events on TV such as hockey or baseball.
But what is is most satisfying is that he likes all the wild game that I bring to our table —from baked pheasant to elk sausage to venison burger to any freshwater fish.
But there is one food for which he has a real affection — potatoes. It doesn’t matter if they are mashed, boiled, baked, oven-fried or whatever. He’s a machine when it comes to them. It reminds me of myself when I was a kid. I couldn’t get enough potatoes, either.
Recently, a co-worker of mine, Dale Stensgaard, gave me a recipe that was passed on to him by his brother, Daryl, for Potato Gratin in Red Wine. Dale said he thought I’d enjoy the dish. And if do, Rakeem surely will, too.
Following is Daryl’s recipe, along with another similar one that I’ve come across. Either would be excellent fare any time, but especially during the holidays.
Potato Gratin in Red Wine
¼ cup chicken fat or drippings from a roast (or olive oil or butter
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 to 1/16 inch thick (about 6 cups)
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup red wine
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup water
In a large skillet, add half the potatoes, onion and garlic. Stir-fry until edges turn brown. Season with half the salt and thyme. Repeat with remaining batch. Transfer to a 2-quart baking dish.
Pour wine and ½ cup water over the mixture, top with olive oil and bay (or two or three). Bake for 1½ hours at 350 degrees and then serve.
Potato Gratin with Swiss Cheese
1½ cups half-and-half, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 ounces shredded Swiss cheese or crumbled goat cheese
1¼ cups reduced fat milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme or 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
8 cups thinly sliced Yukon gold potatoes, peeled if desired (about 4 pounds)
1 cup panko bread crumbs mixed with a few tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine 2 tablespoons half-and-half with flour in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Whisk in the remaining half-and-half, cheese, milk, salt, pepper, nutmeg, garlic and thyme or rosemary.
Arrange half of the potato slices in a single layer in an 11-by-7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Pour half of the milk mixture over potato slices, stirring the milk mixture immediately before adding. Repeat procedure with remaining potato slices and milk mixture. Bake for 40 minutes.
Sprinkle on the panko bread crumb mixture and continue baking 20 to 30 minutes more or until potatoes are tender and golden brown at the edges. Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes before slicing. Cut in squares or other shapes.
Yield: Serves 12.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 225 calories, 31 percent of calories from fat, 8 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 31 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams protein, 256 milligrams sodium, 25 milligrams cholesterol, 197 milligrams calcium, 3 grams fiber.